The Anti-Inflammatory Actions of Exercise Training

Am J Lifestyle Med. 2007 May;1(3):220-235. doi: 10.1177/1559827607300283.


The list of diseases with a known inflammatory etiology is growing. Cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, geriatric cachexia, and Alzheimer's disease have all been shown to be linked to or exacerbated by aberrantly regulated inflammatory processes. Nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that those who are physically active, or who become physically active, have a reduction in biomarkers associated with chronic inflammation. There was strong early consensus that exercise-induced reductions in inflammation were explained by body mass index or body fatness, but recent studies provide support for the contention that exercise has body fat-independent anti-inflammatory effects. With few exceptions, the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise appear to occur regardless of age or the presence of chronic diseases. What remains unclear are the mechanisms by which exercise training induces these anti-inflammatory effects, but there are several intriguing possibilities, including release of endogenous products, such as heat shock proteins; selective reduction of visceral adipose tissue mass or reducing infiltration of adipocytes by macrophages; shift in immune cell phenotype; cross-tolerizing effects; or exercise-induced shifts in accessory proteins of toll-like receptor signaling. However, future research endeavors are likely to uncover additional potential mechanisms, and it could be some time before functional mechanisms are made clear. In summary, the potential anti-inflammatory influences of exercise training may provide a low-cost, readily available, and effective treatment for low-grade systemic inflammation and could contribute significantly to the positive effects of exercise training on chronic disease.

Keywords: anti-inflammatory; chronic disease; exercise training.